(Photo courtesy Hillside Bible Church)
Separate problems related to electricity are blamed for major fires that gutted two Oregon churches last month.
One was June 9 at Hillside Bible Church 10 miles from Forest Grove, and the other was June 10 at Hermiston Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Even though losing their historic church building to the huge fire the previous day, the congregation of Hillside Bible Church showed their commitment to worship and prayer by holding their Sunday morning service June 10 next to the ruins. For the immediate future, services will continue in the church parking lot.
The two-alarm blaze, which destroyed the more than-century-old structure at 49820 N.W. Clapshaw Hill Road, was caused by an electrical failure, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue determined. The afternoon fire started in a void space between the basement and main chapel floor.
“We are truly blessed that no one was injured or in the building at the time,” read a posting on the church’s website. “Even though our building has gone, our church family is still alive and well and are very excited to see what God has in store for us.”
Pastored for 19 years by Tim and Bonnie Goold, the church is affiliated with Village Missions, an Oregon-based national network of rural churches. On the Village Missions website, Western District representative Mark Canady wrote he saw firemen trying to recover something from the ashes.
“These firemen were trying to recover the old church bell,” Canady wrote. “This church bell has always been painted red. No one could remember it being any other color, but the fire burnt away all of the coats of red paint and the words ‘Jesus Lives’ were revealed. These words may have been hidden under the paint for 134 years.”
The building was constructed in 1884, and until a renovation three years ago was still using the original kitchen.
“The building didn’t last, but the church has!” Canady added.
Umatilla County Fire District investigators believe the early morning fire at the Hermiston church, 855 W. Highland Ave., was caused by a lamp too close to a wooden table. The insured building was constructed in the mid-1960s. Damage was estimated at $3 million.
During repairs, the congregation will hold services at the Hermiston Junior Academy, an Adventist school.